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Beginning Blender

samzenpus posted more than 3 years ago | from the read-all-about-it dept.

Book Reviews 68

terrywallwork writes "Lance Flavell and Apress have been busy writing another Blender 2.5 based book. Lance Flavell (known as Lancer in the Blender community) is a very knowledgeable Blender user. So I was very interested to find out about this book when Apress announced its availability. So off I went and ordered the Ebook version of the book in PDF format." Read on for the rest of Terry's review.This is a book aimed at Blender beginners who are using the Blender 2.5x series. It takes the approach of introducing a subject and then giving examples and exercises for the reader to try and carryout and as a result learn how some of Blenders features work.

The pictures in the Ebook version are full color and apparently the paper book version also has full color pictures, which is useful. The pictures in the PDF version, unfortunately often had compression artifacts making them look very pixelated. Luckily most of the time the quality of the pictures was just good enough to get the point across, it's a shame the pictures were slightly below par but the rest of the content of the book is a much better standard.

Chapter 1 — This chapter deals with explaining what Blender is, how it came about and what makes it special when compared with other software. Instructions on how to obtain and install Blender are gone over, not in massive detail but in enough to be usable. Especially interesting was the good description of what opensource is and why it is so important.

Chapter 2 — Covers various beginner topics on using Blender, from interacting with the user interface in various ways to manipulating the 3D Cursor and explaining how it works and what it is used for. Once the basic interface features have been described the chapter moves on to explaining Blenders different types of primitive shapes and how to use them to construct simple models. A very good explanation of how to manipulate various parts of meshes and the interface using both the keyboard shortcuts and the mouse manipulations is explained. Usefully notes on possible issues with shortcut key conflicts with various different operating system platforms are highlighted, which I think would be extremely useful for a beginning Blender user to be aware of, as this can often be a problem users encounter and it's not often obvious how to fix it or that anything is wrong when it happens. At the end of this chapter the reader is given an exercise to make a simple robot model. I found this a good way to re-enforce committing to memory the subjects described previously in the chapter. Another thing I liked was the way that keyboard shortcut keys were almost always used and described, even some of the less well known shortcuts were mentioned.

Chapter 3 — Covers the fundamental topics of modeling in Blender, covering the differences between Object Mode and Edit Mode. There is a very clear explanation of what mesh topology is and how it impacts on the overall quality of a finally produced model. Simple modifiers such as Blenders Mirror Modifier and Subsurface Modifier are demonstrated and their uses enumerated. I was surprised the Sculpting and the use of Multi-Resolution Modifier was covered at this point in the book, I was expecting it later on, none the less it was well laid out and easy to understand and guided the user to sculpt a simple cat model. Another very useful feature of Blender covered in this chapter was Blenders Retopology feature. A lot of new Blender users and even some not so new users tend to not know about the Retopology feature (or only find out what it is much later) and I found it very useful that it was covered so early on within the texts. Another example of providing information that is often left out of beginners books is the description of how to use proxy objects when linking objects from a file in Blender. How to create proxy objects is often overlooked as a feature that is advanced and therefore not normally covered, this is not a mistake this book makes.

Chapter 4 — Covers the topics of Lighting and Procedural Texturing. It also covers setting up the camera for doing renderings and its various settings that affect render sizes. A topic I found helpful was how to setup the Blender camera to track objects and lights. After camera setup is covered the various lighting techniques and types supported by Blender are described, not in massive detail but more that enough for a beginning Blender user. Although to my mind the description of how Hemi lights worked was a little inaccurate, but not in a way that is likely to affect new Blender users. The important lighting parameter Dist: was explained very well as were the Spot Light parameters and their uses. How to setup simple lighting rigs and simple explanations of lighting theory were explained but don't expect advanced coverage of the theory side of lighting rigs, but there is a enough there to start with. Good explanations of what Key, Fill and Rim lights are and how they can be combined and positioned for effective lighting of a scene within Blender is described.

Ambient Occlusion and Environment Lighting is very briefly covered. I would liked to have seen more information on how to use environment lighting features and how useful it can be, but in a book of this size, space is limited and you get enough information to get you started.

Having covered the basic lighting features the chapter moves on to describing procedural texturing. It does this by taking a Text object and converting it and applying textures to it, in the form of bump maps and color textures. Applying multiple textures to a material is described and demonstrated on the text object. It was easy to follow and showed just how powerful Blender material and texture system can be.

Chapter 5 — Covers texturing using UV Mapping techniques and the steps involved in preparing textures for modification in external applications such as The GIMP. The description of how to use the Uv Image Editor to unwrap mesh objects is clear and useful. Surprisingly Projection Painting is described, as are texture brushes and how to use them. Another highlight of this chapter was the description of the difference between Bump and Normal Mapping, very informative, as often the distinction is not clear. Also very educational was the description of how Normal maps can be made manually. For those that want to use Blenders ability to create Normal Maps automatically this is also covered. I also really appreciated the section on ways to fix common normal map problems when they are baked, lots of people may benefit from this information not just beginners.

Chapter 6 — Covers Curves, Nurbs and MetaBalls. While curve are often documented in Blender books and tutorials, Nurbs and MetaBalls are much less frequently documented. This is a shame as Nurbs and MetaBalls have features that when used in the right situations can be very useful. The description of how MetaBalls and Nurbs work was not the clearest and it took me a couple of re-reads to get to grips with the information, even so still a useful section. Another small problem with this section is that the text refers to fields and parameter names that have been changed in recent version of Blender, so the names the book gave for parameters do not match, which may be slightly confusing to new users. The coverage of 3D Curves, Bevel Objects and Taper Objects were very clear and I think will be very informative for new user, even not so new users. It's a shame this book was not released a month later as it would have been able to cover RotoBeziers addon which allows for keyframed animated curves, but as it was still a very useful chapter.

Chapter 7 — Goes over basic animation and rigging techniques as well as covering the standard terminology and methodology involved in rigging and animation. The explanation of keyframing both what it is and how to do it within Blender were clear and to the point. Time saving features such as auto-keyframing were noted and their use demonstrated. A simple animation is constructed using a monkey model. The uses for the Graph Editor and Dopesheet are documented, here though I do wish more information had been given as to the differences between what the graph editor is used for and what the Dopesheet is used for. The various bone types and weighting methods are described and each is demonstrated in various ways. Though strangely Blender Auto/Heat Weighting method did not appear to be described, I could have just missed it but if not I do find that very strange.

Chapter 8 — Carries on where things left off in Chapter 7, but this time covering more advanced rigging topics such as what FK and IK is, what Control Bones and Bone Layers are and how and why they are used and the differences between them. A demonstration of how to rig a finger and a leg are gone over as are custom bone shapes. Slightly more exotic features such as Pole Targets are used and a good description of why they are useful is also done. Various ways to create both simple and more advanced foot rig designs were gone over. Once the rigging explanations were completed the chapter moves on to the subject of animation and a basic animated walk cycle is created. The section on shapekeys is very useful as shapekey are often a feature that can be difficult to get to grips with. They are used to demonstrate how to do lip syncing on a speaking character. Overall this chapter was better than most other beginners books in showing some of Blender more useful features, very good chapter.

Chapter 9 — Covers how to use Blender in your Movie Making pipeline. Once you get to this point in your Blender education it becomes useful to use the Video Sequence Editor and Compositing Nodes. So this chapter covers the use of the Video Sequence Editor and Node Compositor to make and do the post processing tasks needed to make movies in Blender. How to use Depth Of Field is covered. The various different methods of Greenscreen usage and filtering is gone over, then it is shown how to composite live action footage and CG together and various Video Sequence Editor filters are demonstrated also.

Chapter 10 — Demonstrates how to use Blender Physics, Particle and Hair features. It's a fast moving chapter and quickly goes over each feature very quickly, but generally in enough detail to be useful as a jumping off point to further study. The features are demonstrated by making a simple exploding rocket that animates a model and particle systems. After the particle settings are described the chapter moves on to describing how hair particles work, and a simple wig is constructed using them. Lastly fluid and smoke simulations are covered, again only very briefly but with enough information to be useful.

Chapter 11 — Covers using the game engine to make simple games. Done mainly using Blender Logic Bricks to construct a couple of simple interactive games. The games that result are very good examples of what can be done with the Blender Game Engine. This is a very brief chapter but game creation is very complex and not a lot can be covered in such a short amount of space. But as a taster of what's possible with the Blender Game Engine it's useful to get you started with game creation in Blender.

Chapter 12 — This final chapter connects up various lose ends topics such as where to get further information on Blenders various features and also has an FAQ section answering and fixing the most common problems encountered by new Blender users. The FAQ section to me seemed very useful as the questions answered were definitely the ones that I encountered when I first started using Blender so I would assume they will be useful to other readers.

So on balance this is an excellent book for a Blender beginner, it even had me re-remembering things I had forgotten. This book is a combination of detailed enough to give a Blender user most of the salient information needed to use Blender effectively, and not to difficult as to make it confusing or overwhelming. Personally I think this is currently the best general purpose beginners book to basic Blender 2.5 features so far. Other lesser books would try to cut down on the number of topics covered and probably make a much smaller book but I think this book benefits from the larger amount of pages. It's not a perfect book it does have its problems, such as having badly displayed pictures in places and sometimes not being quite clear enough with explanations of certain sections of the book.

If you're a Blender beginner or an experienced Blender user that is new to 2.5 or a bit rusty, this book will be well worth the money. I really hope Mr Flavell does another Blender book, given the quality of this one.

You can purchase Beginning Blender - Open Source 3D Modeling, Animation, and Game Design from amazon.com. Slashdot welcomes readers' book reviews -- to see your own review here, read the book review guidelines, then visit the submission page.

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Obligatory question (4, Funny)

hjf (703092) | more than 3 years ago | (#34461874)

But, will it blend?

Re:Obligatory question (1)

mrmeval (662166) | more than 3 years ago | (#34467942)

No, the UI will not fit in a blender and no one has figured out how do tear it apart yet.

Official Wikilead guide to the Jigagoo presidency! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34461894)

Congratulations on your purchase of a brand new nigger! If handled properly, your apeman will give years of valuable, if reluctant, service.

You should install your nigger differently according to whether you have purchased the field or house model. Field niggers work best in a serial configuration, i.e. chained together. Chain your nigger to another nigger immediately after unpacking it, and don't even think about taking that chain off, ever. Many niggers start singing as soon as you put a chain on them. This habit can usually be thrashed out of them if nipped in the bud. House niggers work best as standalone units, but should be hobbled or hamstrung to prevent attempts at escape. At this stage, your nigger can also be given a name. Most owners use the same names over and over, since niggers become confused by too much data. Rufus, Rastus, Remus, Toby, Carslisle, Carlton, Hey-You!-Yes-you!, Yeller, Blackstar, and Sambo are all effective names for your new buck nigger. If your nigger is a ho, it should be called Latrelle, L'Tanya, or Jemima. Some owners call their nigger hoes Latrine for a joke. Pearl, Blossom, and Ivory are also righteous names for nigger hoes. These names go straight over your nigger's head, by the way.

Owing to a design error, your nigger comes equipped with a tongue and vocal chords. Most niggers can master only a few basic human phrases with this apparatus - "muh dick" being the most popular. However, others make barking, yelping, yapping noises and appear to be in some pain, so you should probably call a vet and have him remove your nigger's tongue. Once de-tongued your nigger will be a lot happier - at least, you won't hear it complaining anywhere near as much. Niggers have nothing interesting to say, anyway. Many owners also castrate their niggers for health reasons (yours, mine, and that of women, not the nigger's). This is strongly recommended, and frankly, it's a mystery why this is not done on the boat

Your nigger can be accommodated in cages with stout iron bars. Make sure, however, that the bars are wide enough to push pieces of nigger food through. The rule of thumb is, four niggers per square yard of cage. So a fifteen foot by thirty foot nigger cage can accommodate two hundred niggers. You can site a nigger cage anywhere, even on soft ground. Don't worry about your nigger fashioning makeshift shovels out of odd pieces of wood and digging an escape tunnel under the bars of the cage. Niggers never invented the shovel before and they're not about to now. In any case, your nigger is certainly too lazy to attempt escape. As long as the free food holds out, your nigger is living better than it did in Africa, so it will stay put. Buck niggers and hoe niggers can be safely accommodated in the same cage, as bucks never attempt sex with black hoes.

Your Nigger likes fried chicken, corn bread, and watermelon. You should therefore give it none of these things because its lazy ass almost certainly doesn't deserve it. Instead, feed it on porridge with salt, and creek water. Your nigger will supplement its diet with whatever it finds in the fields, other niggers, etc. Experienced nigger owners sometimes push watermelon slices through the bars of the nigger cage at the end of the day as a treat, but only if all niggers have worked well and nothing has been stolen that day. Mike of the Old Ranch Plantation reports that this last one is a killer, since all niggers steal something almost every single day of their lives. He reports he doesn't have to spend much on free watermelon for his niggers as a result. You should never allow your nigger meal breaks while at work, since if it stops work for more than ten minutes it will need to be retrained. You would be surprised how long it takes to teach a nigger to pick cotton. You really would. Coffee beans? Don't ask. You have no idea.

Niggers are very, very averse to work of any kind. The nigger's most prominent anatomical feature, after all, its oversized buttocks, which have evolved to make it more comfortable for your nigger to sit around all day doing nothing for its entire life. Niggers are often good runners, too, to enable them to sprint quickly in the opposite direction if they see work heading their way. The solution to this is to *dupe* your nigger into working. After installation, encourage it towards the cotton field with blows of a wooden club, fence post, baseball bat, etc., and then tell it that all that cotton belongs to a white man, who won't be back until tomorrow. Your nigger will then frantically compete with the other field niggers to steal as much of that cotton as it can before the white man returns. At the end of the day, return your nigger to its cage and laugh at its stupidity, then repeat the same trick every day indefinitely. Your nigger comes equipped with the standard nigger IQ of 75 and a memory to match, so it will forget this trick overnight. Niggers can start work at around 5am. You should then return to bed and come back at around 10am. Your niggers can then work through until around 10pm or whenever the light fades.

Your nigger enjoys play, like most animals, so you should play with it regularly. A happy smiling nigger works best. Games niggers enjoy include: 1) A good thrashing: every few days, take your nigger's pants down, hang it up by its heels, and have some of your other niggers thrash it with a club or whip. Your nigger will signal its intense enjoyment by shrieking and sobbing. 2) Lynch the nigger: niggers are cheap and there are millions more where yours came from. So every now and then, push the boat out a bit and lynch a nigger.

Lynchings are best done with a rope over the branch of a tree, and niggers just love to be lynched. It makes them feel special. Make your other niggers watch. They'll be so grateful, they'll work harder for a day or two (and then you can lynch another one). 3) Nigger dragging: Tie your nigger by one wrist to the tow bar on the back of suitable vehicle, then drive away at approximately 50mph. Your nigger's shrieks of enjoyment will be heard for miles. It will shriek until it falls apart. To prolong the fun for the nigger, do *NOT* drag him by his feet, as his head comes off too soon. This is painless for the nigger, but spoils the fun. Always wear a seatbelt and never exceed the speed limit. 4) Playing on the PNL: a variation on (2), except you can lynch your nigger out in the fields, thus saving work time. Niggers enjoy this game best if the PNL is operated by a man in a tall white hood. 5) Hunt the nigger: a variation of Hunt the Slipper, but played outdoors, with Dobermans. WARNING: do not let your Dobermans bite a nigger, as they are highly toxic.

Niggers die on average at around 40, which some might say is 40 years too late, but there you go. Most people prefer their niggers dead, in fact. When yours dies, report the license number of the car that did the drive-by shooting of your nigger. The police will collect the nigger and dispose of it for you.

Have it put down, for god's sake. Who needs an uppity nigger? What are we, short of niggers or something?

They all do this. Shorten your nigger's chain so it can't reach any white women, and arm heavily any white women who might go near it.

Not unless it outnumbers you 20 to 1, and even then, it's not likely. If niggers successfully overthrew their owners, they'd have to sort out their own food. This is probably why nigger uprisings were nonexistent (until some fool gave them rights).

Yeah, well, it would. Tell it to shut the fuck up.

A nigger's skin is actually more or less transparent. That brown color you can see is the shit your nigger is full of. This is why some models of nigger are sold as "The Shitskin".

What you have there is a "wigger". Rough crowd. WOW!

They're as common as dog shit and about as valuable. In fact, one of them was President between 1992 and 2000. Put your wigger in a cage with a few hundred genuine niggers and you'll soon find it stops acting like a nigger. However, leave it in the cage and let the niggers dispose of it. The best thing for any wigger is a dose of TNB.

And you were expecting what?

When you came in here, did you see a sign that said "Dead nigger storage"? .That's because there ain't no goddamn sign.

Re:Official Wikilead guide to the Jigagoo presiden (-1, Troll)

twilightzero (244291) | more than 3 years ago | (#34461934)

GTFO newfag, this isn't /b/.

Re:Official Wikilead guide to the Jigagoo presiden (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34462082)

Someday one of these people will make the mistake of posting that shit under their real UID, and all will be redeemed.

Beginning Blender: Abridged (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34461982)

Mouse move and click.

5 minutes of this, and you won't need that book anymore.

No mention of a PDF version (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34462100)

I checked the page on Amazon and it doesn't mention an eBook version and even has that little ask the publisher for a Kindle version. The price is in line for a printed book with color pages but if I can get a PDF for less I'd definitely be more interested.

Re:No mention of a PDF version (4, Informative)

Gramie2 (411713) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462252)

Not too hard to go to the publisher's website and find it:

http://apress.com/ecommerce/cart?act=add&bid=1469 [apress.com]

Re:No mention of a PDF version (1)

d6 (1944790) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462394)

Thanks for the link. Not buying it at $35 tho. The price is fine for a physical textbook, but way out of line for an electronic copy IMHO.

Which leaves me still wanting a book. Total newb with regards to Blender and 3D modeling of any sort.
Anyone knowledgeable here (I know this is /. silly me) with recommendations on this book or others? Textbook/online course/ebook, whatever.

Re:No mention of a PDF version (1)

HighOrbit (631451) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462784)

Looks like you can also get it with a safari books online (i.e. o'reilly) subscription. I used to have a subscription when I needed to access lots of language references and I really liked the bookshelf concept.

frustrating (1)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462248)

I find Blender an enormously frustrating program. It's clearly very powerful and I've done some nice things with it myself. But the user interface is confusing. Blender 2.5 was supposed to fix that, but it's just as confusing only in a different way. For starters, put big undo/redo buttons prominently into the interface to help people get started, and start respecting some standard UI conventions.

Re:frustrating (1)

del_diablo (1747634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462328)

Respecting UI standards would ruin blender.
How about sane shortcuts? Undo is ctrl+z in every single application, also in blender!
The 2.49b to 2.5x upgrade was insane, after getting into the flow, I can no longer go back. If I go back, I can only do stuff that is shortcuttet, but the fact that spacebar search is not up there makes it really really lacking.
Another point to make: Buttons is really really bad for the workflow, when they are not needed. Most shortcuts are placed to sane defaults, along with that search on spacebar also lists the keys used, means that buttons are not needed. What the 2.5x gui upgrade did, what to clean up the GUI, which you are going to use when setting up nodes, materials, rendering?

Re:frustrating (1)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34463186)

How about sane shortcuts? Undo is ctrl+z in every single application, also in blender!

Doesn't work in 2.55 beta on Linux. Blender also needs Alt-click with no substitute.

Another point to make: Buttons is really really bad for the workflow, when they are not needed.

But they are needed by beginners, so that they don't have to worry about shortcuts at the same time they have to worry about everything else.

Respecting UI standards would ruin blender.

A menu bar, a few optional toolbars, a context sensitive menu, and standard keyboard shortcuts are going to kill Blender? I don't think so.

Re:frustrating (1)

del_diablo (1747634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34463720)

Your first problem is the default WM problem, which can be solved after digging down into a option menu somewhere and change alt modifier to super instead.
I disagree about your second point: It would waist space, and ruin the initial workflow learning. When you are learning blender as a 3D newb, how hard is it to aknowledge that grab is set to G, scale to S, rotate to R and extrude to E? Add on that you got plane locking on Z, X and Y, which coincidently are on the names of the axis. Besides that, and the more obscure sub menus, what stuff do you actually want when modeling and you don't know shit? I learned the idea on 3D on milkshape, at some point later i tried blender and did not like it. And some time later I tried blender again, but this time looked up a basic 3D tutorial for blender, it was really really good for learning. Just replacing the "button X here" with "hit keyboard and speed up workflow" is something every single student of something like modeling should learn quite fast.

As for the third point? A menu bar? Options? Etc? They already exists. You have tool options under the tool panel, you have menu bars elserwhere, they finally got rid of hiding away the options menu under the information tab and made a popup for it. I think you must elaborate your points, because they are currently far too shallow for me to interpret.

Re:frustrating (1)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466130)

I think you must elaborate your points, because they are currently far too shallow for me to interpret.

Blender doesn't use standard UI conventions: its menu bar is different, its shortcuts are different, its toolbars behave different, etc. All that makes learning hard when people are trying already to wrap their head around Blender's view of 3D modeling.

Other problems are that it shows tons of information by default that's irrelevant to many users. The UI and objects can be in lots of modes that aren't clearly indicated. There are no wizards for common operations and the help system isn't well integrated either.

Of course, nobody owes anybody such features. Nevertheless, they could be added without making Blender any harder to use for experienced users.

And there's another problem with Blender...

learning blender as a 3D newb

I'm not a 3D newb at all. Part of what makes Blender so frustrating and hard to use is its incomplete and haphazard support for 3D geometry: points, lines, angles, joins, spans, constraints, coincidences, minimal surfaces, refinements, CSG etc. It's not that Blender can't do the calculations, it's that these operations just aren't exposed in a consistent way.

Re:frustrating (1)

Creepy (93888) | more than 3 years ago | (#34469406)

yeah - I had major issues with Blender's interface myself, and it has many of the same problems as the commercial software I work on - the interface is far too busy, flow is not intuitive at all, and has too much garbage most people don't care about on it - it can be powerful, but I personally don't think it would be significantly faster than the professional CAD software I use (note that Blender WAS professional CAD software at one time).

Note that I have not used Blender since 2.3, so I have not tried the interface improvements. I should give it another try - note that I do have a lot of bias because I specialized in usability and user interfaced in college.

Re:frustrating (1)

del_diablo (1747634) | more than 3 years ago | (#34470952)

I agree about the help system lacking, that one annoys me. I disagree about using UI conventions being a good thing when using a poweruser app, as it would slow me down.
I also agree the view is a complete mess, however I doubt any of the competive apps are any better. At the best they might have a few useless wizards more, to hide the mess. The mess is still present, so the point is a bit moot.

As for your last statement: I guess that makes you addicted to your tools. Going from milkshape to blender was innitally a disaster for me, until I realized there was a workflow. I would image it would be a lot worse if I had actually learned to use a real 3D application, and properly learned it. I would ask "where is my buttons?!", and "where is my workflow?!".

If anything: You did not touch the worst problem "if there is a feature missing, implent it yourself", we are sitting on the corner waiting for buttons to be added and hotkeys added. Along with features, or stuff being fixed. The less used tools such as "Texture paint mods" will not be fixed for another version, and it is still broken for being what it is. If you wonder what it is about, google up discussions about it.

Re:frustrating (1)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34471238)

As for your last statement: I guess that makes you addicted to your tools. Going from milkshape to blender was innitally a disaster for me, until I realized there was a workflow. I would image it would be a lot worse if I had actually learned to use a real 3D application, and properly learned it. I would ask "where is my buttons?!", and "where is my workflow?!".

Geometry is not a question of tools or workflow or preference, it's a question of mathematics. Blender does not provide the user with a reasonably complete, standard set of geometric operations. And the consequence is not just that I'm frustrated, it's that if you look at tutorials and other people's workflows, even geometrically simple operations are really cumbersome. Nobody manages to construct 3D objects elegantly or efficiently with Blender, even people who are really experienced with it.

Have a look at how ridiculously and unnecessary complicated this is:

http://vimeo.com/785249 [vimeo.com]

Tracing an outline should not require extruding little edge segments.

Re:frustrating (1)

DarwinSurvivor (1752106) | more than 3 years ago | (#34471016)

Change the window manager? Seriously? I am not reconfiguring my entire window manager (of which almost all my meta keys are bound to shortcuts of some kind) just so ONE application can work properly. Blender (which is mostly used in linux anyways) needs to seriously look at what the default and most common hotkey configurations are before blindly overriding the most well known and trusted window manager hotkeys in the linux world (aside the basic alt+F# keys of course).

Re:frustrating (1)

Skrapion (955066) | more than 3 years ago | (#34464090)

Worry not, they plan to have a new default keymap [blender.org] by the time the final version of 2.5 is released (i.e. by the time 2.6 is released) and that will have ctrl-z as the default for undo. I'm not entirely sure why it hasn't been done yet. I've seen some talk on the blender.devel list about issues with the configuration system, so maybe that has something to do with it. It's still on the TODO [blender.org], though, so for now I still have faith that the new keymap will be included in this release.

Does anybody else think it's weird to see books being released for a beta version of Blender when Blender 2.6 will be coming out in a matter of months?

Re:frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34462346)

Large professional user level applications do not follow standard desktop UI conventions in general. They expect their users to be knowledgeable and proficient in what they are trying to achieve. They do this for a reason, when you know what you are doing, you don't want bloody great big undo/redo buttons, or any other useless crap casual users moan about, taking up valuable realestate.

Just because Blender is OSS these days, doesn't mean is was designed for newbs to play around with. Go and check out all professional DAW and video editing suits (even Apple's), none will look like, or be themed like their native OS.

AWGTGTATA (3, Insightful)

Qbertino (265505) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462494)

I find Blender an enormously frustrating program. It's clearly very powerful and I've done some nice things with it myself. But the user interface is confusing. Blender 2.5 was supposed to fix that, but it's just as confusing only in a different way.

As I (and others) have said time [slashdot.org] and time [slashdot.org] again, Blender is *not* more difficult to use than any other full-blown 3D Toolkit.


t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34463326)

Tools like SketchUp show that user interfaces in 3D building tools don't have to suck as badly as Blender. The fact that Maya and tons of other tools are equally obscure doesn't change that.


Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34463396)

SketchUp is horribly frustrating and impossible to use for anything serious- IF you actually know how to model. If you don't, I can see why you'd think it is great. Thing is, blender is made for those who are serious, not those who want to model "just because."


Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34481818)

Yeah, Blender is good for "people who know how to model"--people who don't know shit about 3D geometry but have spent so much time in 3D modeling programs with poorly thought out user interfaces that they think this is the way things need to be.

SketchUp has tons of limitations unrelated to its UI, but at least it breaks out of the rut that so-called "professional" tools seem to be in.

Re:AWGTGTATA (4, Interesting)

ducomputergeek (595742) | more than 3 years ago | (#34463794)

I haven't dealt with blender or any other 3D packages much in about 2 years. Prior to that I spent a lot of time around Lightwave from 1998 - 2005 and Blender from circa 2000 - 2007 and then went back to Lightwave even for the hobby work I do on the side because I didn't have the time to relearn Blender every few months when I had time to do 3D work. I'd much rather spend my time creating rather than relearning the program.

Here are my problems with Blender:

1) The interface changes too often. It seems like just as I got used to the layout and where everything was in the UI, a new release would come along and suddenly everything changed. This seemed to be happening about every 6 months to a year. The basic interface for Lightwave hasn't changed that much from when I began with Lightwave 5.6 to Lightwave 9. Hell, I didn't even use Lightwave for a couple years and was able to pick up the latest version (9 at the time) again in just a couple days. Recently I downloaded Blender 2.5 and it was like having to relearn the entire application. I loaded some of my old files and found all the careful particle animations I had no longer work on the new version.

2) It could take days to reproduce the same quality of results with Blender that I could produce in minutes to a couple hours with Lightwave. Especially with lighting. I could get better results in Lightwave than Blender in half the time.

3) Functionality suddenly breaking. I had a lot of Lightwave Models. In the 2.2/2.3 versions prior to 2.37(?) they had a LWO importer that worked extremely well for importing meshes including textures. The last couple versions I used, the feature was broken. I would have to keep an old version of blender around to import models, save as a .blend, then import those files into the lastest version of blender. It was a PITA especially when I have 3 - 4 hours on the weekend to work on 3D stuff. I know there are new and better formats these days, but back then this was a problem.


kayoshiii (1099149) | more than 3 years ago | (#34467272)

1) This is mostly because Blender is undergoing a complete UI rewrite. Lightwave is undergoing the same for the version after 9. It was a mature application from 5.6->9. This is similar to the Power Animator -> Maya transition or SoftImage -> XSI transition.

2) This would depend quite heavily on what kind of lighting effect you were trying to achieve without knowing what specific lighting techniques you were trying to use it's really hard to quantify this. Certainly Light wave probably does have some quick and dirty lighting setup options that blender may not.

3) See 1 - Blender is currently in the middle of a massive application rewrite this means that all addons like importers and exporters need to be rewritten. LWO is probably of interest to a small number of people but nobody has come forwards to make sure it works. I would suggest using a n old copy of blender to convert the models into blend, dae or even filmbox files.


VirginMary (123020) | more than 3 years ago | (#34464012)

From one German to another: "German" and "English" should be capitalised!


toriver (11308) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466066)

They both are! With Berlin and London, respectively! :)


VirginMary (123020) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466216)

I was referring to this:

[My english is better than most other people's german, so please point out mistakes politely. Thank you.]


EEPROMS (889169) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466666)

I was referring to this:

[My english is better than most other people's german, so please point out mistakes politely. Thank you.]

Seems fine to me, you don't have to put capitals on every proper noun, very old hat in this day and age. Usually I only put capitals on proper nouns in relation to people or persons names or places, for a general language (not a place as in this case) I don't think capitals are needed.


VirginMary (123020) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466996)

It's not *every* proper noun! In this instance it is about nouns that are languages, a *tiny* subset of proper nouns! Of course *you* can do whatever you want, but, that doesn't make it grammatically correct. Without the comment about how great your English is, I wouldn't have bothered anyway...

Re:frustrating (1)

camperdave (969942) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462922)

I find Blender an enormously frustrating program. It's clearly very powerful and I've done some nice things with it myself. But the user interface is confusing.

Ditto here. I was happy with kpovmodeller, but that was dropped from Ubuntu, and although it could be manually installed, it no longer worked with Ubuntu. The chat rooms and forums all suggested using Blender instead, so I tried it. Man, talk about a steep learning curve!

Re:frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34463004)

"For starters, put big undo/redo buttons prominently into the interface to help people get started, and start respecting some standard UI conventions."

Like, ctrl+z and ctrl+shift+z? Those are rather standard UI conventions. That you need a button over using a standard set of key combination shows you probably haven't actually tried to use the program that deeply.

I would have once agreed with you that blender is difficult, but you need to realize that if you want to be a serious user of a serious program, you need to put in some effort to learn it. Programs like 3DS Max (oh god, buttons everywhere!) are not made for professionals and are seldom used by them, because what is "simple" isn't really effective. If you look at the other 3D programs used by actual professionals, you'll find they are similar to blender in difficulty.

Sure, blender could add features for those "learning" it, but show of hands- who "learns" something one way and then goes about doing it a totally different way? If you need the interface substantially changed in order to learn how to use the interface, then you shouldn't be using the program.

That said, for those of us who did put in that effort, I have to say that 2.5 seems like an extreme dumbing down of the UI. Many operations that used to be easy now seem impossible (like resizing text in menus) and there are a mass of features that seem intended to do just what you want, at the cost of valuable functionality. I might give it a pass as a beta, but I certainly hope that blender hasn't decided to appeal to those who can't use the program at the cost of those who can.

Ultimately, blender is (or was) a tool, not a toy. You can't pick up a piece of complicated machinery and expect to use it like a word processor. It is no different with 3D modeling programs, which will always be complicated, no matter the UI you slap on.

Re:frustrating (1)

arcsimm (1084173) | more than 3 years ago | (#34463294)

As a dyed-in-the-wool Blender user, I find the new interface frustrating too -- but mostly because I learned on the pre-2.5 interface, and there's a lot that doesn't carry over. For a starting user, though, I'd think that 2.5 would be pretty simple, seeing as you can press the spacebar and then search in real time for the functionality you're looking for.want to extrude something? type "extrude" and there it is! Typing "knife" gets you the knife tool. It's practically like playing Scribblenauts.

Re:frustrating (2)

capsteve (4595) | more than 3 years ago | (#34463504)

blender has a very steep learning curve, similar to it's commercial counterparts like maya, modo, lightwave, to name a few. yes the UI has some failings, but if you've seen the UI for other 3D apps, it's not too far from the competition... eventually you'll get the hang of where most of what you needs is located, you can always refer to a book such as this as a desk reference. as an aside, i think that several 3d apps have a tendency to violate current UI conventions due to their lineage in X11 unix apps when UI standardization was in it's infancy... this includes blender(NaN), maya(alias) and lightwave(toast). the question is could 3d modelling/rendering/composition apps really follow current UI standards?

i sympathize with you, when i started using blender, i found it confusing and frustrating as a modeling tool, so i switched to wings3d, which seemed more intuitive. once i felt more comfortable with modelling in wings, i started importing my models into blender and working with the blender tools for tweaking/refining and final image composition. i became comfortable and competent with the tools in blender, but still prefer wings for modelling.

there's nothing wrong with using multiple tools to accomplish a job.
2d print artists use multiple apps all the time (photoshop, illustrator, indesign), no single app can offer all the necessary tools.
similarly, 3d artists might prefer to use multiple tools to modelling, composition, and rendering(wings,blender, yafray perhaps)...

as far as undo/redo, these are prolly the first keyboard shortcuts you should be learning.

Re:frustrating (1)

TheSambassador (1134253) | more than 3 years ago | (#34463818)

To some extent, I agree with you, but honestly, it's sort of a "once you get it, you never go back" sort of thing.

I guess it may seem "unintuitive" at first, but really it's all about learning the shortcuts and practicing. Once you know them, modeling in Blender is faster and more satisfying than any other modeling program that I've tried.

So... should UI's of a specialized program be designed to be easy to learn, or very efficient once learned? There are definitely arguments for each of those (and others, probably), but I find it very slow going modeling in other programs now. If you're just going to throw together a really simple model, using Sketchup is great, but if you're actually looking to get into 3D modeling, learning a nice tool like Blender will be worth it.

Re:frustrating (1)

t2t10 (1909766) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465352)

So... should UI's of a specialized program be designed to be easy to learn, or very efficient once learned? There are definitely arguments for each of those

It's not an either/or proposition.

Re:frustrating (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34470222)

Actually, it often is. As Henry Petroski lays out in the book "Small Things Considered", there is no such thing as a perfect design. All things are a compromise to some extent between various constraints and a software UI is no exception. Discoverability is great for a newbie -- it put buttons and features in front of him where he can stumble upon them when he needs them.
  To an expert, this is an intrusion, a waste of space that could be better used for conveying information or something else useful to him.

  Blender was originally designed by experts for their own use, not for sale as a product to end users and newbies. Its design philosophy (and the thing that has most differentiated it from other 3D packages) was to sacrifice the questionable value of newbie-friendliness in favor of speed and power, and that philosophy has still carried over to the present day open-source iteration, brought along by users who fell in love with Blender for that reason.

  It's not a coincidence that speed modelling competitions can often be divided into "people who used Blender" and "everyone else."

Re:frustrating (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#34464044)

Compared to what?

IF you tell me you find Maya and Lightwave to be incredibly easy and intuitive, I'm going to ship a midget with a Giant Mackerel to smack you with. Every single 3d EFX and CG program I have ever used is convoluted at best, a sheer clif of a learning curve at worst.

Re:frustrating (1)

Skywolfblue (1944674) | more than 3 years ago | (#34470840)

I found Lightwave/Modo to be incredibly easy to pick up from scratch and do amazing things with. Maya was a bit more tricky though, a lot of the default interface isn't immediately intuitive until you read through it a bit.

Re:frustrating (1)

deathguppie (768263) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466968)

No other major piece of graphics software that I can think of wastes space that kind of thing. The same goes for copy and paste. Blender uses standard keyboard shortcuts for those and has a complete built in undo menu.

Another already out of date book. (1)

salted (1390595) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462270)

Great, another book about Blender that will be outdated by the end of the week.

Re:Another already out of date book. (1)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462332)

Indeed. Why bother writing a book about a transitional version of an application? 2.5 is in flux - it won't be "stable" until they finish with it!

a simpler introduction (2)

Trepidity (597) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462294)

While it doesn't have as much detail as this book, the FLOSSmanuals manual [flossmanuals.net] on Blender is a quite good introduction that's a bit more concise and to the point (and free).

Re:a simpler introduction (2)

X0563511 (793323) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462344)

1. That's for 2.4, not for 2.5 as this is
2. That seems great to speed a CAD-savy user into using Blender. It is not however a good starting point for someone new to the 3D field.

Re:a simpler introduction (1)

Bios_Hakr (68586) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462374)

The document you linked to covers the current release (2.4x). The book covers the new release (2.5). AFAIK, 2.5 is still in beta.

There are quite a few differences in the new Blender. To me, the new releases seem a little more user-friendly. If you spend a lot of time with 2.4x, the 2.5x releases will feel a bit awkward. They seem to do a lot more hand-holding.

The great thing is that they did not change the file format. There are a lot of 2.4x python scripts that haven't been ported to 2.5x yet. But you can edit and save in 2.5, open in 2.4 and run your scripts, then re-open the .blend file in 2.5 and continue editing.

Re:a simpler introduction (1)

hedwards (940851) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462442)

It is, and unfortunately it makes little sense to learn on 2.4x, when 2.5x is bringing such high degree of change.

Missing from the summary (2)

oldmildog (533046) | more than 3 years ago | (#34462558)

From wikipedia:

Blender is a free 3D graphics application that can be used for modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging, water and smoke simulations, skinning, animating, rendering, particle and other simulations, non-linear editing, compositing, and creating interactive 3D applications, including video games, animated film, or visual effects.

It wouldn't be a Slashdot book review unless it was cryptic about what was being reviewed.

3D animation primer (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34462662)

3D animation is something I've been interested in recently but have zero knowledge of. Does this book or the FLOSS manuals give enough information for somebody who has never done any 3D modelling before or are they aimed at somebody who has already used 3D Studio Max or Lightwave?

Re:3D animation primer (1)

websitebroke (996163) | more than 3 years ago | (#34463312)

I think the best way to learn Blender is to follow along with one of the thousands of free video tutorials found on Vimeo, YouTube, or some of my favorites:

Have fun!

Re:3D animation primer (2)

Lumpy (12016) | more than 3 years ago | (#34464086)

And all of those tutorials will be 100% useless for 2.5.. Click here for .... wait I dont have that, the UI is completely different... WTF!!!

This is the problem, the changes in blender will make it near impossible for a newbie to get up to speed as everything will be just wrong enough for them to give up. and nobody is going to go back and redo all the tutorials.

Re:3D animation primer (2)

kayoshiii (1099149) | more than 3 years ago | (#34466974)

Both BlenderCookie and Blender Guru have a large number of video tutorials which have been targeted at 2.5 for some time now. I would suggest either of these as a good place to learn the new version.

Re:3D animation primer (1)

khellendros1984 (792761) | more than 3 years ago | (#34467016)

Blender has the perennial issue of a shifting interface. Generally, it's for the better, but each new revision has some degree of learning curve. So, the problem now is looking for tutorials that use the same interface that your copy of the program has. 2.5 is a brand new release, so tutorials written using it are likely to be relatively rare, in comparison to the ones based on previous versions of the program. This early on, picking up a book may be a good move. Or just learn with the older version. If you're not looking to become a professional Blender artist, my guess is that a 2.4x version would work out just fine.

Just one question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34462798)

What is Blender?

Re:Just one question... (1)

arkane1234 (457605) | more than 3 years ago | (#34463414)

Christ, google it...
all you need to lookup is 'blender application' and it's the first fucking link.

Re:Just one question... (1)

Metabolife (961249) | more than 3 years ago | (#34465042)

Christ is the English term for the Greek (Khristós) meaning "the anointed one". It is a translation of the Hebrew (Mîa), ...

Re:Just one question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 3 years ago | (#34472434)

But in this context it means "sudo".

Amazon... (1)

Pharago (1197161) | more than 3 years ago | (#34463296)

Amazon dosn't exists anymore for me, so i think i'll pass, thank you very much. A shame i was looking forward to some nice book about the new blender version.

What, you bought it in a 2d format? (1)

hydrodog (1154181) | more than 3 years ago | (#34464794)

PDF does not have a single 3D primitive. I would hold out for the blender implementation of the book, or at least a C++/OpenGL hacker version.
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